Several weeks ago I was hanging out in my kitchen doing typical housewife stuff–wiping down counters, re-filling sippy cups, making dinner, etc. I typically listen to podcasts when I’m doing stuff like this and that day was no exception. My podcast of choice was a This American Life episode entitled, “Send a Message”. I was really only half-listening until the third act when I found myself completely engrossed.
The story was told by Sonari Glinton, a NPR reporter, and recounted an experience he had as an African American 4th grader at a Catholic school. The school was run by an Irish nun named Sister Rosemary. Glinton described her as a force of nature who loved the children fiercely. One day Sister Rosemary came into his classroom, got up on a chair and removed the crucifix on the wall and replaced it with another. The difference between the two crucifixes is that the first had a white Jesus on it, the second portrayed a black Jesus. When asked what she was doing, Sister Rosemary replied, “Boys and girls, we’re not sure what Jesus looked like. But we know he probably looked more like you than like me.”
The fact that it was Sister Rosemary who replaced the crucifix and that she did it in front of the children sent an important message these African American kids. As Glinton said,
When you’re a fourth grader, everything is bigger than you. Everyone is smarter than you, older. But when one day you realize that Jesus is just like you, Jesus is black, then everything short of Jesus seems possible…[Sister Rosemary] knew exactly how God should look in my eyes. And luckily enough for me, she was able to show me.
I found myself weeping upon hearing the conclusion of this story, not only because it is beautiful, but because it breaks my heart that I can’t (officially) pray to a god that looks like me. Seeing yourself reflected, whether it be in leadership or God, matters. It matters deeply.